Grandparents Reading to Grandchildren:

Literacy in Tulsa

Last week I attended Chapters, the Tulsa City County Library annual fundraiser for literacy. I knew before I walked in the doors I would have a wonderful time. I was spending an evening with my beloved book club friends, there was delicious food from local restaurants, wine and books- how could it not be a great evening? I also knew it was a worthy cause. My mother was a tutor for the library in the 1970s, and I often accompanied her under the guise of studying when she went to Central library to meet with her students. I was proud of the volunteer work my mother was doing, but I was a self-involved teenager and my main motive for going with her was a chance to hang out at the downtown library, read magazines and talk to boys. Despite my lack of an altruistic youth, my mother’s generous example has always occupied a place in my mind I refer to as the “someday I’m going to do that” region of my brain, so when my friends suggested we attend the event, I eagerly agreed.

I was somewhat skeptical about sitting still to listen to three authors, as I have such a limited attention span I usually go to the movies alone so no one else will have to suffer through my fidgeting. I needn’t have worried, every author grabbed hold of my attention and kept it captive until the end. The three authors, Ally Carter, Sasha Martin and Beatriz Williams are not only masters of the written word, but each was a spellbinding speaker. To top off the happiness they served cake in the shape of books, one layer for each author! I love cake and I love books; you can’t go wrong when you combine them!

The best part of the evening didn’t even involve food, it was learning about the literacy program. One of the facts that surprised me was one in six adults in Tulsa County cannot read the prescription label on a medicine bottle, understand a newspaper article, or enter complete information on an application. The implications for the inability to read on a basic level are endless, and we were educated on this topic with a video of a literacy tutor and a student. The student had graduated from high school yet could not read well enough to take the driver’s license written test. It was the desire to earn her driver’s license that motivated her to seek assistance through Tulsa Public Library’s Ruth G. Hardman Adult Literacy Service.  Basic reading and English language instructions for adults are provided by 120 volunteer tutors to approximately 150 students.

Most of us are familiar with the campaign developed by the Association of Library Service to Children: Read, Talk, Sing and Play every day. It’s a program aimed to close the thirty-million-word gap estimated to exist for low-income children by the time they start kindergarten. It’s a great reminder to all of us to take the time to do these activities with our children and grandchildren every day, and I never stopped to think, but what if the adults can’t read?! Many of us take the ability to read for granted, but for some in our community it is a hard-earned skill.

My favorite part of the evening was meeting a gentleman who was a former student of the literacy program.  He desperately wanted to be able to read to his grandchild but he was unable, so he signed up for instruction through the literacy program. His motivation to read was his grandson, and he eventually accomplished his goal and was able to sit down and happily read Dr. Seuss to him. His grandson is now ten years old and is able to read to his proud grandfather! His success story made me so happy and grateful Tulsa has a program able to assist people with reading skills. Reading skills translate into success in many areas, not just for the individual but for the community as well!

Reading to our grandchildren is something many of us enjoy! There is assistance available for those that need a little help learning to read. It’s never too late to learn!

If you know someone in need of assistance with reading and/or the English language please tell them about the literacy program at the Tulsa City County library or have them call 918-549-7400 to sign up. If you feel the call to be a volunteer tutor there is training provided, and volunteers are always welcomed. You can register online or call to sign up, 918-549-7400. A one-year commitment is asked of students and volunteers. The volunteers and students I spoke with at the event reported that it’s an extremely rewarding volunteer experience, and all you had to do was meet the tutor-student pairs to know it must be true! I may end up following in my mother’s literacy volunteer footsteps after all!


Categories: Grand Life